Young Golfers Need Models, and Several are Even Better
I have read yet one more article on what’s wrong with golf, and I am sticking to my guns by saying “not very much.” Still, sports do rise and fall in popularity, as do most walks of life, with the people who dominate the industry news. Yesteryear’s heroes were the astronauts who first walked on the moon. Now, we certainly respect them, but otherwise don’t know what to do with them. Golf has similarly risen and fallen from the 19th to early 20th century according to who’s playing, what and where they’re playing. Sports have always needed models to spur enthusiasm. If they’re not happening at the moment, we begin to worry. I’ll say it once more – no need to worry. Mankind has never, ever,grown tired of hitting something on the ground with a stick.
The models don’t always need to be people. My generation got hooked on the televised beauty of Augusta, evven when it was black and white. We got snagged by the beauty of a shot, with its bends, turns, and suspense. We fell for the whole picturesque art of it. The human golf swing is at its bottom line, lovely, although admittedly, some of us do our best to cast some doubt on the theory.
However, if the models are star players, we have enjoyed a regular parade of them through the decades. We had the Jones, Hagen, and Sarazen years, the Snead, Hogan years, the Arnie years, and the splendid era of the Big Three, not to mention dozens of wonderful players and personalities who competed against them on a weekly basis. Such models!
Now, as one article suggests, people who are asked about what’s wrong with golf often answer that the unexpected absence of Tiger Woods has sounded the death knell of the game. However, Tiger Woods was an inspiration in another way than the others. With Arnie, Jack, and Gary, we ate up every aspect of who they were, what they thought, how they were with each other, Then, we watched them play golf. We ran for the sports page, lacking computers, to see where they were on the leaderboards for the untelevised tournaments.The Green Jacket seemed greener then.
I believe that when we start to doubt the viability of golf, we’re thinking of the wrong age of a prospective golf fan. We who are between thirty and seventy are already hooked, but all those wonderful personalities and visuals got me when I was 10. The problem with Tiger Woods is that he hooked us, for the most part, only with his great golf. He didn’t give us enough of himself to “drink it up.” He was such an obsessed genius of the game that we got his scowling aspect, instead of the charm, wisdom, and grace of the Big Three. He broke barriers to bring more African-Americans into the game, but he didn’t make it the friendly experience he might have. Also difficult was that gus gane was si wonderful that finding regular challengers was difficult.
Believing in the ten year olds buttresses my confidence in golf’s future because the state of junior golf is so good. But why are we so worried about the PGA, while the LPGA continues to expand? In my opinion, It is because the women’s tour has put together the complementary personalities and top-level games to offer the same sort of multiple rivalries that the men used to provide. And, on top of it, we like these people. We observe and experience their public personallities in a positive way, and look forward to following them.
One of these days (and it never seems to take very long), the complete model, or a group of them, will appear to take 10 year old boys into the promised land of golf, like they used to. We already have great golfers, but need some charisma wizards as well. We’re not tired of the game. I don’t even think it’s all that slow. That’s for course owners who want to move more cattle through in a day. But, give us something or someone we can ooh and ah over through the store window and you’ll have your next generation of golf lovers – no problem.